San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Costa Ricans More Aware of Corruption

Just as fighting poverty and going “green” have become buzz words in political circles, tackling corruption has taken root here as a popular effort as well.

A leading political party rose to power on a platform promising to rid the government of malefactors.

Public prosecutors initiated substantial cases against two former presidents on accusations of fraud. And more people, from both within and outside of government, are looking to derail those who have used their power for personal gain.

“We’ve seen a growth in the concern over corruption,” said Jorge Vargas, deputy program director for the State of the Nation, which framed a recent report on the study of corruption in Central America.

According to the study, Costa Ricans have a higher awareness of corruption in their government than citizens of other Central American countries. Twenty-three percent of Costa Ricans surveyed said they are aware of some act of corruption taking place during the proceeding 12 months.

This is almost double the percentage of any other Central American country. Twelve percent of Salvadorans and six percent of Panamanians said they were aware of incidences of corruption.

But measuring corruption is not an easy task, said Costa Rican Chief Prosecutor Francisco Dall’Anese, as it comes in many forms – public and private, large-scale and in modicum, national and international.

The study also measured the per capita expenditure on corruption cases in the justice system. It found that Costa Rica registered $28.3 spent on such cases per resident, compared to runners up El Salvador at $19.1 and Panamá at $12.3.

But variables such as the lack of a legal framework to protect witnesses who report acts of corruption and the differences between the laws and legal systems of each country make the figures harder to read.

Dall’Anese said he expects more conversation on the topic in the coming years.

–Chrissie Long


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